Emily Walter Story
Over two years ago, I felt distant and disconnected from the people and places in Africa I love and longed for. I had always wanted and planned to live and serve in East Africa. A series of health problems and complications rendered this impossible for me. I was heart broken.
Sick and stuck in Dallas, I started searching for pocket of the world in my neighborhood that I could give my heart to.
I began volunteering with Reading Circle and found this, and more than I could have imagined and to this day, more than my heart can hold without bursting.
We work in Vickery Meadows, a web of apartment complexes that comprises a very dense neighborhood of Dallas. In this area, an estimated 10,000 refugees live in under 1 square mile. The community of communities is rich in culture and family and traditions. Walking along the sidewalk, your eyes are met by the dark eyes of a young Burmese girl in a sari carrying her young sister, your sense of smell greeted by curry cooking, your ears filled with the hearty laugh of a Congolese man.
There is always a game of pick up soccer in play, the teams vary in age and perhaps a half dozen nationalities.
At any given time, there is a posse of kids on bikes cruising around, and a group of middle school boys using sticks and rocks to get a basketball out of a tree.
There are gardens in pots on front porches and shoes stacked on welcome mats.
It is vibrant and dynamic and complicated.
It's a hard life too, the crime rate is high, break-ins are common. Many commute for work to Garland or further, living away from their families for weeks or months at a time. Many have moved, and moved, and moved again, repeatedly dislocated from the lives they've built, uprooted by emergency, thousands of miles from their homeland and former lives. It must take a heart-breaking desperation to leave all you have and all you know.
I spend Wednesday evenings here, picking up and dropping off the kids before and after we read together, getting to know their families and neighbors, being invited in for strange and wonderful local delicacies.
It's a complete joy to work with Refugee Resources Inc. and the Reading Circle program. I’m continually grateful for all who work to run and support this opportunity for both the kids and the mentors. I love it, believe in it, and can’t imagine my life without it.
Elysee is the highlight of my week, one of the brightest lights in my life. He is a complete joy and such a special kid. I am so proud of who he is and who is becoming.
He is smart, advancing level after level- 14 levels in his 14 months in America.
He is funny, making me laugh with his stories and jokes.
He is thoughtful, contemplating insightful questions such as “who created God?”
He is driven, asking for extra fluency trackers and begging for a vocabulary book.
He is generous, never failing to offer me some of his popcorn and always taking his candy home to share with his little siblings.
He is a treasure to me and all those around him. He has all the potential in the world.
He wants to be a teacher when he grows up. He hopes he can pass high school and go to college and realize this dream. He is a very positive kid, but he fears this might not happen for him. I hate that at his young age, he knows that the obstacles working against him are tremendous.
But he is undaunted, pouring his whole self into his family, friends, and his schoolwork.
He would be an extraordinary teacher.
I can see it in the patient, gentle way he teaches me what the Rwandan flag looks like and the riddles he learned this week.
Because he is already my teacher, excitedly and gently sharing what he knows with me. I help him with reading, but really I am the one trying to absorb all the wisdom and love he has to impart.
It is easy to imagine the kind and measured man he will become, doing whatever he does well and with enthusiasm, and always taking the time to care for others. And it the meantime it is even easier to enjoy the little boy that he is.